March 17, 2004

The Six Cs of Capability

I love serendipity. The other day I was following a bizarre, but interesting, trail of links and end up at the search engine 'karto'. I did a couple of searches, but I couldn't make much sense of the results I was getting. Pressing ahead I clicked on one of the links it threw up and stumbled across a treasure.

Not that I realised that it was a treasure at first. I was quickly skimming through it, almost about to move on somewhere else, when I saw the name Tyrrell Burgess. Now many years ago when I was working at what was then North East London Polytechnic as a research assistant Tyrrell Burgess very kindly tried to get me seconded to the School of Independent Studies he was in process of setting up.

Before I had joined NELP I was a student on Ealing's radical, Integrated Design course. This was a course where students effectively created their own individual course from the resources available. It was because of this experience that Tyrrell Burgess thought I might be useful in what he was doing. Sadly, the bureaucracy got in the way and I couldn't join him, but I remain sympathetically, informally engaged with what they were doing for some time.

Anyway, seeing that name made me look more closely at what turned out to be some memories of Sir Toby Weaver, who was a high ranking civil servant in the Ministry of Education. Three bits in his piece particularly resonated with me.

The first was what he called The Six Cs of Capability. These he explained in the following way;"Capability can be analysed into five or six capacities that an educated human being ought to be able to develop." He identifies these capacities as being:

Comprehension - "a capable person must understand and acquire the necessary knowledge as the basis for sensible action"

Cultivation - "the educated individual should have a proper sense of values, otherwise he or she has no background against which to decide between truth and error, between goodness and wickedness or between beauty and ugliness"

Competence - "the application of specialised knowledge such as that of the lawyer, the doctor or the technician"

Creativity -"the quality though which most of the great things in the world have been introduced"

Cooperation - the understanding that people "are not islands, as John Donne put it, but that they are connected to all their fellows"

Coping - "person?s general capacity to manage his" or her "own life, to cope with his environment, to profit from experience, to master what used to be called the art of living, to reach sensible decisions and act on them"

These seem to me to be very desirable and responsible aims of education and ones we too often fail to achieve. This is in part due to a failing of many educationalists, which he describes, in the following terms:

"With my background prejudices, which I have already given full expression to, I suspect that somewhere along the line the academics have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. By a form of reductionism that may be perfectly valid in physics or biology, they try to break down human activities into tiny elements and identify a huge array of narrowly-defined skills."

And finally a quote from John Macmurray who influence Weaver's thinking very strongly:

"All meaningful knowledge is for the sake of action, and all meaningful action for the sake of friendship."

Posted by richard at March 17, 2004 3:00 PM